How do you pronounce “little”?

A reader has asked how to pronounce two-syllable words in the CVCCVC pattern where the middle two consonants are the same letter sound, such as in “little,” “muffin,” and “bigger.”

Child with arms stretched out at his sides, forming the letter T.

In the US, these words are usually pronounced as if the first of the two middle consonants is silent, or if not silent, barely spoken.  In “muffin,” for example, the pronunciation is mu- fin with both vowels sounding short.  The accent is usually on the first syllable, but not always.  “Supplant” is accented on the second syllable.

The British pronunciation, however, places the consonant sound strongly with the first syllable and weakly with the second.

Other examples of words like this include “babble,” “clammy,” “lesson,” “pollen,” “funnel,” “puppet” and “kitten.”  Longer words, such as recommend, follow the same pronunciation patter, but the accented syllable often changes.

Two of my dictionaries* disagree with me while one** agrees.

Pronunciation of words varies across the US, with people in the North and East sounding a bit more British than people in the South, Midwest or West.  For sure, double consonants are slurred when pronounced everywhere in the US, so it can be hard to distinguish which syllable the consonant sound goes with.  Even so, the way I say these words and the way I hear these words pronounced is with the consonant sound beginning the second syllable.

Pronunciation is different from syllabication.  The rule for syllabication is to divide between the twin letters no matter how you pronounce them.

For audio pronunciations of words, go to these links:  the Cambridge Dictionary, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/pronunciation/english/little;  and the Macmillan Dictionary: http://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/pronunciation/american/little_1

*The American Heritage Dictionary; World Book Dictionary

** Merriam Webster Dictionary

One response to “How do you pronounce “little”?

  1. And sometimes we don’t even say a sound that matches the letter used to write it! Some people say “budder” for “butter” or “mi’en” for “mitten” (the ‘ is used to represent the glottal stop in some pronunciations).

    Like

What's your thinking on this topic?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s